The New York Post was tricked by a fake Facebook page for Ryan Lanza, the brother of the Adam Lanza, the gunman in the Dec. 16 Connecticut school massacre. Adam Lanza killed 26 adults and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The New York Post ran a Dec. 23 story based on a Facebook chat with someone who said he was Lanza. That person told the Post he was "a victim" and posted tributes to his brother and mother on the Facebook page. Spelling and grammatical errors should have alerted the Post to the possibility that the account was a phony.
While the Post left its story up, it added an "update" -- not a "correction" -- reading:
"UPDATE: A spokesman for the Lanza family says an imposter is behind Ryan Lanza's Facebook page and that Ryan did not post the messages in this story.
It appears that Facebook account has since been de-activated.
The New York Post also replaced its headline to read : "UPDATE: Lanza family says impersonator behind Ryan Lanza's Facebook page, falsely claiming to be Newtown shooter's brother."
The Huffington Post unpublished its article, which was apparently based on the New York Post's report. An "editor's note" replaces the story and discloses that it was a hoax. That editor's note reads:
"Editor's Note: A story that originally ran here about Ryan Lanza has been removed. Lanza, whose brother Adam was identified as the shooter in Newtown, reportedly created a Facebook page and had an online chat with the New York Post. The Lanza family subsequently informed the Post that the messages were from an impostor. Their updated story can be found here."
The Huffington Post wasn't alone in reporting on the New York Post's Facebook chats. The International Business Times, the UK Sun, and News Limited all posted stories about comments by "Lanza."
iMediaEthics has asked the New York Post reporter, Candice Giove:
How she found the Facebook account in question?
Why the interview was conducted over Facebook chat?
Why the Post didn't publish a correction or retraction?
Who in the Lanza family alerted the Post to the hoax?
We'll update with any response.
Last week, we rounded up some of the errors made in reporting on the shooting, including mis-identifying Ryan Lanza as the gunman, showing pictures from the real Ryan Lanza's Facebook account, and mis-reporting that CNN aired the wrong photo.
Hat Tip: Jim Romenesko